FSSAI wants to filter out chicory from ‘pure coffee’ labels

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on November 21, 2021

The term ‘pure’ can only be used to describe single ingredient products and not blends, it says

Your daily cuppa is coming in for a lot of surveillance with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) directing State food safety commissioners to ensure that companies are complying with standards for packaged coffee products.

Woe betide if a coffee product blended with chicory carries the label “pure”.

The perfect brew

Regulatory action would be taken against errant food business operators as labelling norms state that the term “pure” can only be used to describe single ingredient food products.

According to the norms, coffee content in the coffee-chicory mixture should not be less than 51 per cent by mass and the permissible limit of chicory content in such mixtures is at 49 per cent.

Every packaged coffee product also must display on its label the percentage content of coffee and chicory “separately”. Also, if a coffee product has a blend of chicory, it cannot use the term “pure coffee”.

The direction from the food safety authority comes after certain coffee products, which are blended with chicory, were found to be in violation of the standards.

“It has been observed that the products available in the market are in violation of these provisions and are either depicting coffee-chicory mixtures as “pure coffee” or are not declaring percentage content of coffee and chicory separately in the mixtures,” the FSSAI stated in its letter.

Outcry against blends

Food Safety Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulations outline standards for coffee and coffee-chicory mixtures “distinctly”, the regulator added.

Coffee planters in the Southern region have been against blending and urging authorities to reduce the permissible content of chicory allowed in such mixtures for some time. The FSSAI has also been deliberating on a proposal to increase the coffee content in the coffee-chicory mixture to 70 per cent and reduce the permissible content to 30 per cent from the current 49 per cent.

A matter of taste

Addition of chicory, which is a French root, makes the coffee thicker and gives it a woody flavour. The practice of adding chicory to coffee began in Europe, especially during war time when there was rationing. It is conjectured that the British introduced the coffee-chicory blend into India. But now the Coffee Board wants to ensure that people are aware of what they are consuming and hence the labelling norms.

Published on November 20, 2021

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